Monthly Archives: December 2014

Lousy Knicks, lively entertainment

Knicks gameNEW YORK — Jasmin, Jana and I watched the New York Knicks vs. Dallas Mavericks game the other week (Dec. 16). We sat in Row 225 inside Madison Square Garden. This arena is iconic; built in 1968, its tagline reads, “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Today, MSG hosts over 300 sporting events each year and is home to three pro teams: the Knicks, the NY Rangers (hockey) and the NY Liberty (women’s NBA). For basketball, the seating capacity is 20,000.

Entering the coliseum, I was expecting a derelict facility (given that it’s 46 years old) but was surprised to see a spanking world-class arena. Newly-renovated last year, MSG was comfortable; the seats were cushioned; on top of the basketball court was a gigantic HD screen that endlessly projected slow-motion replays, up-close shots of the players and other highlights.

When we arrived at 7:45 p.m., the players were warming-up. As the Mavs and Knicks stars were introduced, the last man to be called was the most “sikat:” Carmelo Anthony. He wore an orange bandana that was the same orange color that spread across the Knicks uniforms.

Finally, the announcer says, “Let’s… play ball!” All the lights were off. The girls danced an intro number. After the players stood ready, Margot Bingham was called to sing the national anthem. Like we see on TV, once the song reaches those last few lines, everybody sings along. Someone screamed, “Let’s go New York!” It’s wonderful to see Americans so proud of their song, people, nation.

Game on! New York had possession after the jump ball. But, like an ominous sign of the bad things to come, they didn’t even fire a shot: they were penalized after a 24-second shot violation. Bad sign! Seconds later, Tyson Chandler was lobbed an alley-hoop pass which he barreled into the ring. A slam dunk for the Mav’s first two points. Shot after shot, the Mavs wouldn’t miss. They converted on their first six attempts. No miss. After four minutes, the score was lopsided: 19-7. Chandler had one more dunk. And another. Three dunks in five minutes.
Dallas is an amazing offensive team. They lead the NBA in points, averaging 113 per game. It was evident that night: after six minutes, they amassed 27 points. Moments later, the score was 29-11. Led by Dirk Nowitzi, the Mavs led from the first minute until the last. From beyond the arc, they buried 15 of 33 three-point attempts. This wasn’t a ballgame, it was a New York massacre.

You know Americans; they’ll let you know in your face how they feel. They’re blunt and direct. And the New Yorkers let their players know how they felt. They booed. They turned quiet. The initial atmosphere of excitement was replaced by oh-no-here-it-comes-again…. another beating.

By the end of the first quarter, the score was 36-24. At that point, the Mavs made 79 percent of their field goal attempts. Amazing statistic. As bad as the Knicks were, the Mavs were unstoppable — they were possessed when they possessed that ball.

The Knicks weren’t a team of five players on-court; they’re a one-player squad. Carmelo Anthony led with 26 points but that was it; everybody else was lousy. This is nowhere near the team that won the NBA crown back in 1973 (their last win) that had Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas and Phil Jackson, now the Knicks president.

But as lousy as the Knicks were, the entertainment was fantastic. Plenty of celebrities watched. Golfer Jason Dufner. Actor John leguizamo. Devon Kennard of the Giants. Even John Starks came to watch.

During timeouts, they have what’s called a “Dance Cam” where they find spectators who’ll dance and they’ll showcase their moves on the large screen. One man juggled balls. They also had these “machine guns” where they’d fire t-shirts to the crowd. One shirt was fired towards us and Jana caught it. They had a Tic Tac Toe game played by two men. They had all these side entertainment gigs to make the lousy game fun. In all, it was fun despite the Knicks losing by 20.

Watching the New York Knicks

NEW YORK — This is my third trip to the U.S. The first time, back in 1993 and together with the whole Pages family, we stayed in the West Coast. Then, we got to watch two MLB baseball games. The first was between the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers (we saw Mike Piazza score a homerun). In the second game, the Oakland A’s played the Toronto Blue Jays (amazingly, I caught a ball in that game).

In my next trip here, my dad Bunny and I spent three weeks in NYC to watch the US Open. We witnessed Serena Williams win her first major and Andre Agassi win his second Open trophy.

For this trip, I made sure to watch two other sports. The first one, which I chronicled last week, was American football. In that Dec. 14 game, the New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins at home (MetLife Stadium), 24-13. With my good buddy Ping-J Villegas, who’s resided in the Big Apple for over 17 years, we watched the outdoor game together with 70,000 others in cold 4C temperature. It was an unforgettably festive, beer-drinking, and loud atmosphere. It was very American.

Two nights after watching the NFL, I watched another kind of ballgame. Months before our trip, I purchased online tickets for the New York Knicks vs. Dallas Mavericks game.

Choosing between two teams here in NYC — the Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets — the choice was easy: the NY Knicks are one of the most iconic of NBA teams. And the venue (Madison Square Garden or MSG) is revered among the world’s indoor arenas.

And so last week — Tuesday night, Dec. 16 — my wife Jasmin, daughter Jana and I took the famous New York subway from Wall Street to Penn Station, a few blocks from MSG.

But before that, some pre-game activities: We toured Bryant Park in Manhattan, took photos of their ice-skating rink; we trekked 5th Avenue and gazed at the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers; and, visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we found out that there was a 12 noon mass. As we sat near the front pew awaiting the start of the holy celebration, a buzz started. Walking right by us was someone we listen to often: Andrea Bocelli. He not only visited but he heard mass with us.

For lunch, we dined at PotBelly Sandwich Shop. After touring the NY Public Library and several other famous spots, we took the open-deck Big Bus hop-on, hop-off bus and got off for our late afternoon destination: the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It’s an amazingly well-done museum but, at the same time, it’s heart-breaking viewing all of those torn steel beams and horrific photos. It’s a must-visit place, the 9/11 site.

The game was to start at 8 p.m. Outside the huge oval coliseum (I wonder why it’s called ‘Square’ when it’s circular-shaped), the Madison Square Garden tagline explains it all: “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Neon lights that changed colors decorated the outside walls. As we arrived, hundreds of people had congregated and were lining-up. Security, like in most important venues here, was strict: we had to unload all items, including belts, coins and bag contents. As soon as we showed our tickets, we took several flights of stairs and were handed nice gifts: blue shirts with the Knicks logo. Perfect for Christmas (except for the shirt size: XL).

We followed the parade of people going up until we reached our seats: Row 225. Our tickets were priced at $172 each. These were not front row seats (these would sell for over $400) but they were not all the way at the ceiling. They were mid-range seats down the middle (not the back of the goals).

I wore the free Knicks shirt. Seated beside me was a couple from Brisbane, Australia who were also tourists (lucky them, a few nights before when we had yet to arrive, they watched the Nets-Cavs game when Prince William and Kate sat beside Jay Z and Beyonce).

MSG is historic. Built in 1968, it has hosted concerts of all major artists from Elvis Presley to Depeche Mode to John Lennon’s final concert before his murder. Ali-Frazier (Part I) fought here. More on Tuesday…

America’s most popular sport

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NEW YORK—Here in the U.S., the most popular sport is not baseball or the NBA or hockey or Serena Williams’ game or soccer. It’s American football. From the first name alone (“American”), we know that this game is deeply rooted to this nation’s 320 million people.

The National Football League (NFL) is the name of the sport’s professional league. It features 32 teams divided into two groups: the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The season doesn’t run for 12 months; it’s only from September until February and it culminates with the biggest sporting event in America: the Super Bowl. This season, it will be held on Feb. 1, 2015 in Arizona. The Super Bowl is that one-game-only Finals that is watched by over 110 million TV viewers.

I’ve followed American football. This started back in high school at the Cebu International School when, surrounded by American schoolmates, we’d toss and throw the football.

On TV, I watched the Super Bowl plenty of times. Featuring half-time performances that would invite names like The Rolling Stones, Madonna and The Black Eyed Peas, it’s a mega sporting and entertainment event. The hosting of the Super Bowl hops from one city to another.

Last February, Super Bowl XLVIII was played at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. That’s where I was last Sunday.

The moment when Jasmin, Jana and I finalized our plans to spend Christmas in the U.S., I contacted a friend to find time and join me in watching a spectacle that I’ve longed to see for years: a live NFL game.

Ping-J Villegas is someone I’ve known for over 25 years now. Her older sister, Cefelin, was my girlfriend in high school and I’m very close to his two other siblings, Lovelin and JP. A huge sports fan who played basketball at CIS and Cebu Doctor’s back in Cebu, Ping-J has now resided in New York for over 17 years. Within minutes of my contacting Ping-J a few months back, we researched the options and Ping-J quickly bought tickets online.

The date was set: Dec. 14 at the MetLife Stadium featuring the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.

From Cebu, we arrived at the Newark Airport in New Jersey the night before the game (Saturday) at 9 p.m. and made sure that no jet lag would hamper the following day’s excitement. After hearing mass at 10 a.m., Ping-J was right on time picking me up at 11.

A Porsche Boxster, Ping-J’s two-seater of a sporting machine, stood shining at the front. We were off. The temperature? It’s 4 degrees Celsius cold in NYC. But that didn’t stop us from opening the hood of the Porsche and speeding towards the arena (at over 80 mph) in the New Jersey cold.

We got to the Metlife Stadium early. The game was to start at 1 p.m. but, over an hour before the kickoff, thousands had congregated in the humongous parking area. For here’s what I learned about American football: it’s not just about the game. It’s family. It’s friends. It’s a Sunday timeout. It’s a moment to bond, to drink Bud Light, to wear blue Giants jerseys, to brave the bitter cold for warm smiles — this is a traditional American pastime.

All the parking areas were filled with people cooking barbeque, sipping beer, munching hotdogs. It’s called “tailgating” and it’s part of the whole football experience. People arrive hours before the game, they take out their portable grilling equipment and they cook. And eat. And party.

Ping-J parked the Porsche Boxster as we proceeded to the stadium. Security is tight, as what you’d expect from a gigantic event of 70,000 spectators.

With an hour to spare, Ping-J and I did the one thing you do when you’re at a game: drink beer. We ordered two bottles (in plastic cups) each. With liquor, they’re very strict here: each one is asked to present an I.D. We sat just outside the stadium’s doors and talked about Cebu, our families, biking (Ping-J has a Cannondale road bike and he pedals often).

Ping-J Villegas and I watched the New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins game last Dec. 14. I wore three layers of clothing: an inner warmer, a Uniqlo sweater and a thick Zara jacket borrowed from Dr. Ron Eullaran. Gloves covered my hands; a beanie did the same with my head. A scarf wrapped my neck. It was 4C.

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The MetLife Stadium is gigantic. It seats over 82,000, making it the second largest among the NFL teams in terms of capacity. The other Sunday, I estimate the stadium to be 80 percent full. That’s nearly 70,000 people, all jammed in the same outdoor space, all cheering for the same blue team. What’s interesting about MetLife Stadium is that it houses two NFL teams, the NY Giants and the NY Jets. Yes, America’s most populous city has two football teams and, because they play just once a week, they alternate playing in the same arena — the only NFL stadium among the league’s 32 teams that’s shared by two teams. MetLife Stadium is new; it finished in April 2010 and is reputed to be the world’s most expensive stadium at $1.6 billion.

Ping-J and I had good seats. It wasn’t all the way up (they call them ‘nosebleed’ seats) and not too close that we can’t see the formations. We paid $233 per ticket. As you’d expect, everything here is expensive. Parking costs $30 (that’s with an “S” and not in pesos.)

The Redskins scored first, on a field goal (3-0). On the succeeding play, the Giants, led by 2-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning (Peyton’s brother) threw a pinpoint pass to a sprinting catcher who ran for a touchdown. After a successful extra-point attempt (via kicking), the score was 7-3 in favor of New York.

Fans here are fanatical. They wear Giants shirts and all-blue; a popular activity is everybody standing up and waving the white towels (that were given to us for free upon entry) to cheer on the home team. What a sight: tens of thousands of Giants fans, all standing, cheering, waving the towels.

American football is physical. It’s like boxing with body padding. Giant men with Schwarzenegger-like muscles barge into each other. They slam, tackle and block the offense. They’re 11 men on each side who bump, slam, barge head-on. You see sprinters who dart onwards. You see a kicker who’s brought in to score a field goal. You see the quarterback, the leader of the team, calling the shots and passing. That’s Eli Manning.

What I’ve observed here: the people who troop to watch don’t come simply to watch. It’s more than a game; they cook barbeque at the parking lot and dine there for lunch (tailgating); they order beer and gulp a dozen; dads enjoy the company of their sons. It’s a whole American tradition every Sunday.

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You know how we get together every time Manny Pacquiao fights? It’s the same here on Sundays. For football fans, they either go to a real game to watch (and eat and get drunk), or congregate in a sports bar with friends, or they troop to someone’s house for lunch and watch the game on TV.

Back to the game: After the Giants scored a touchdown, it was the turn of their neighbors from Washington, D.C. to score theirs. By the end of two quarters, it was 10-7, advantage Redskins. That’s when the combination of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. took over. Manning is the quarterback while Beckham Jr. is the wide receiver. Their tandem resulted in 17 more points in the 2nd half for the Giants. At game’s end, Beckham Jr. had 12 catches for 143 yards. The 22-year-old is poised to become not only the Rookie of the Year but one of NFL’s best. This month, he had dinner with LeBron and Michael Jordan and him are text-mates.

Despite the 24-13 win by the Giants, they’re lousy this season. Prior to the Redskins game, they sported a 4-9 record (which included losing seven straight from October to November). Since then, they’ve recovered (winning three in a row) and now carry a 6-9 win-loss card. As recently as 2007 and 2011, they were Super Bowl champs.

For a first-timer, what an experience for me to see this giant-sized American game.

Running those problems away

If you have problems, I recommend a solution: Run.

I don’t mean that you “run away from your problem.” That’s ineffective. If you don’t solve it, that nagging concern will continue to haunt you until you summon the resolve to fix it. As my dad often tells us: “Close those open loops.” These “open loops” are unresolved issues that should be addressed now.

By run, I mean literally: stepping one foot forward, then the other foot onward, swinging those arms, bobbing the head, walking, sprinting, following a straight path where your leg muscles push against the asphalt to propel you forward.

Running is medicine. It’s an anxiety-reducing pill that works. And it’s for free. (Well, you’ve got to buy a good pair of running shoes — but let’s reserve that for another article.) You can run anytime: morning or noon; if you’re insomniac, you can run at 12:14 a.m. On the treadmill. While wading through the swimming pool. On business trips or vacations. Around your subdivision, at Cempark, or circling the CCSC (Abellana) oval — the choice is yours, pick a spot, tighten those laces, then press “Go!” in your brain.

Running solves problems. Your mind clears. Whatever fears or worries you may possess, these evaporate as the sweat evaporates from your skin. Trust me. The best way to combat stress is to push hard physically.

Run when you’re feeling tired. You’ll emerge energized. Run when you’re feeling low. You’ll inhale that runner’s high. Run consistently. Make it a habit. Don’t run only when problems start chasing you; this is good medicine but, when you run four times each week, running ceases to be medicine — it becomes a vitamin. Remember the adage, “Prevention is better than cure?” Regular running is prevention. Take Vitamin R. That stands for Running — it’s good for your mental health.

You want to be more creative? Then don’t just sit there, slump on your chair, cross your feet, stare at the ceiling and daydream. Get out and go. After a 30-minute exertion of the body, your mind will release creative juices.

In “5 Brain Benefits of Running,” the author Denise Schipani explains in “New Thinking,” the first reward for running: “‘Running sparks the growth of fresh nerve cells, called neurogenesis, and new blood vessels, called angiogenesis,’ says J. Carson Smith, PhD.”

In the second reason, “Sweating the Details,” the author says, “Running helps you get better at learning and storing new information and memories, and can potentially stave off age-related dementia.”

When I searched “running good for the mind” in Google, a total of 519 million results can be accessed. This is indisputable. By doctors, scientists, psychology experts.

Running is the easiest way to good health. Why don’t more people run? Actually, more and more are running. What started as a craze six years ago when Cebu hosted events once a month has morphed into an every-Sunday activity. Can you plot a weekend without a fun run? Hardly. This is terrific. But it’s only a small percentage of our total population.

And so I address this to those who have yet to be bitten by the feet-tickling bug: When will you start? Here’s what I suggest: go to your favorite sports shop and buy those shoes today. Don’t delay. Just that simple act will inspire you to get on your feet.

Start by walking. Running is, simply analyzed, faster walking. Cajole a friend or force your husband to stroll with you before or after work. Then, join a 3K run. Start jogging. Walk-jog, hop-walk. Prioritize this time. Set aside — like you would lunch or taking a shower — time for running. Start with half an hour. I guarantee you: it’s addicting. When you skip a session because your son stayed longer in school, that’s okay. Try not to miss your next date with running.

As to your problem, no, it won’t disappear. But it will feel lighter; a solution will pop in your brain during that jog. Drink regularly: Vitamin R.

Floyd v. Manny? Implausible, yes, but possible

This is perplexing. I don’t understand it. The question: Why Money won’t fight Manny. Maybe Money doesn’t need money? Is he afraid? Scared that his unblemished record will be tarnished? I say all of the above.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Emmanuel Pacquiao. It’s the face-to-face bout that our planet’s seven billion people have been craving for. It’s what Mike Tyson wants. It’s what P-Noy wants. It’s what every Pinoy wants. Sadly, only one person can decide this and he says No.

Why? Reason No.1: He’s afraid to add a “1” to his “L” column. Mayweather is undefeated. He sports a 47-0 grade. Among those victories, he knocked-out 26. Why risk that perfect report card?

Floyd is trying to surpass the record of Rocky Marciano. The American, who lorded over the 1950s, won 49 and lost zero. Floyd is eyeing that figure. Don’t you think he wants to win thrice more, break Rocky’s streak and reach the magical “50?” That’s his goal. And a certain Gen. Santos City politician might thwart his plans.

Why risk it? He can fight Amir Khan. Win via unanimous decision. Seek a rematch. Win again. Reach 49 Ws. Fight one more unheralded bloke and summit that No. 50. Easy path, right?

Pacquiao has agreed to all of Mayweather’s requests. Blood testing. A smaller chunk of dollars to be harvested. Pacquiao is willing to bend, to bow, to accede to the spoiled-brat requests of Mr. Unpredictable just to face him inside that 23 ft. x 23 ft. platform.

Floyd’s response? Let’s do a 70-30 deal. What? Crazy. Well, yes, with that demand, he is. That’s preposterous. While a 50-50 deal is no longer possible — given Pacquiao’s two recent losses — that 70-30 proportion is out of proportion. Maybe 55-45? Or 60-40? Or how about a 55-35 split, with the last 10 percent going to the winner? If Floyd wins, he pockets 65%; if Manny wins, he nets 45. Fair? Actually, it’s unfair for Manny.. but sige nalang. To allow the “Fight of the Century” to happen, Manny’s willing to be Mr. Humility.

Is Floyd avoiding Manny because he’s a righty and he’s a lefty? One man thinks so. “The real problem is that Mayweather is so damn smart when it comes to boxing,” said Bob Arum, whom I had the chance to meet last year and who just turned 83 last Dec. 8. “He (Floyd) realizes that of all the fighters fought and all the fighters out there that Manny poses the biggest threat. Why? Because Manny is fast, Manny can punch and Manny is left handed. Floyd never wants to fight a left handed fighter because his style is designed to fight orthodox fighters.”

We know the strength of Floyd. It’s that “shield” called his left shoulder that he raises to cover his head that makes him impossible to hit. But, says Arum, that stance is good for everybody else — but not against Manny The Lefty. “If you look at his style and how he fights defensively,” said Arum, “everything he does is designed against a right-handed fighter.”

Arum is The Godfather of Boxing Promoters. When he speaks, people listen. He makes sense. With a potential windfall of at least $50 million (P2.25 billion), it’s shocking that anyone, even someone as wealthy as Floyd, will turn down that kind of cash. But, week after year after month, Floyd has spurned Manny’s hand to fight.

Instead, Mayweather is opting for weaker choices, favoring to meet the winner of today’s bout between Khan or Devon Alexander. Even Miguel Cotto, whom he defeated in 2012, is another possible opponent. Cotto would be a rehash; a has-been.

“To get Mayweather in the ring with Pacquiao is a monumental task,” said Arum. “Not because of splits, not because of money, because Manny stands the best chance of anybody that Floyd has faced to beat him.”

The key to Floyd’s yes? It’s to bait him. To tempt him by saying, “Why not be undefeated-for-life and finish 50-0 by beating Manny before you retire?”

This might tempt the narcissistic Floyd. Then, after he agrees, Manny beats him. Manny retires as Floyd heads home with his head bowed, his left shoulder swollen as big as his ego.

The Hometown King leads the Cavs

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The Cleveland Cavaliers lost their very first game this ’14 season. Then, after winning the next one against Chicago, they proceeded to lose the next two. Four wins after that and with a commanding 5-3 scorecard, NBA fans worldwide proclaimed the Cavs as legitimate title contenders.

What happened next? They lost the next four clashes, against Denver, San Antonio, Washington and Toronto. By then, people panicked. Sporting an embarrassing 5-7 win-loss record, many criticized LeBron and Co. The man himself, No. 23, summarized their state in that Nov. 22 loss to the Toronto Raptors in one simple yet horrifying word: “Fragile.”

Well, well. How time flies when you’re having fun and winning. Those defeats and that “fragile” spirit seemed too long ago. After a November that zigzagged and twirled like a roller-coaster — similar to the ones found near Cleveland (in Ohio) that’s considered as “the roller coaster capital of the world,” Cedar Point — that up-and-down first month for the Cavs has been smooth of late.

The Cavs won their 8th straight yesterday. They now carry a 13-7 record, ranking fourth in the East (against 15 teams). The latest victim? The same battalion who defeated them in their last defeat, the Raptors — a previously 16-5 (scorecard) team that’s No.1 in the Eastern Conference. How big was that? Well, how big was that shot, a looping missile from beyond the 3-point line, with 48 seconds left in the game and the score tied 99-all, LeBron James firing one rocket at the top of the key to rupture the Raptors?

That was big. That was LeBron, the man who grew up in this state as a kid and returned home as an adult to pacify and appease all those whom he crucified when he left. The same 6-foot-8, 250-lb. giant who, after that 3-pointer, said to the crowd, “That’s what I came here for.”

He amassed 35 points in 42 minutes, including a monstrous double-clutch reverse dunk after he stole the ball in the 2nd quarter. The night before: the same royal performance before royalty. With Prince William and his beauteous wife Kate sandwiched between Jay-Z and Beyonce at ringside, LBJ scorched the New Jersey Nets, leading his Cavs to a 110-88 victory.

Now on his 12th NBA season, LeBron is not only experienced as a champion, with his two NBA rings and four MVP crowns, but he’s happiest back home.

“I know what LeBron is here for,” said Cavs coach David Blatt, after the Raptors game. “And I know why he’s here. Because he wants to be. So maybe that effort that you saw and maybe what he laid out there tonight for his team and for his fans sort of speaks to that.”

Thus far in the season’s 20 games — more like a First Quarter report for the Regular Season, which has 82 games — LeBron is averaging (per game) 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

If he’s Batman, his Robin (Kyrie Irving) is doing excellent work, averaging 20.8 PPG. If we add Kevin Love’s 17.4 points per game, these three average 63 points — about 61 percent of Cleveland’s average total (103.5) per outing.

“It’s fun,” said Irving. “It’s fun to be playing the way we’re playing right now, and it’s fun to be part of it.”

Is this a momentum shift? Will this continue until the playoffs? Has this team gelled?

Yes, yes, yes, but, no, let’s not get too cocky in behalf of the Cavs as the NBA season has three more quarters left. And, lest we forget, in this winning streak, they did not face a single Western Conference team; and we know how bombarded that section is with the league’s finest: Golden State, Memphis, Portland, Houston, LA (obviously, not the Lakers), San Antonio and Dallas — seven teams that have better win-loss scorecards than Cleveland.

But, for now, with the King performing in front of the Prince, with Kevin Love saying, “We just have a good energy about us right now,” with eight straight smiles after four straight frowns, Cleveland is happy that their son is back home.

CCM, CCT, TDC and IPTL

CCM. The slots for the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) are filled-up. A total of 1,300 registered for the 42K and 1,400 for the 21K. With the 10K, good news for those interested to join. While the registration has officially closed, there is still an option to join the 10K. During the Race Expo at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu (from January 7 to 9), a booth will be ready to receive onsite registrants. The only thing is, the usual freebies (singlets and finishers shirts) will no longer be available. The onsite registrants will be given Race Numbers (with timing chips) only but these will be offered at a discounted P400/participant. Maximum of 200 slots.

CCT. A week before the Sinulog grand parade is CCM. That’s Jan. 11. The week after the Sinulog party is CCT. That’s on Jan. 25. Spelled in full, that’s the Cebu City Triathlon. Organized by the Cornerstone Group, the same team led by Steve Maniquis and Quinito Moras that brought us San Rem 8080 (a very well-organized triathlon event that I joined last month), this time, we don’t have to travel far as the three-part race is to be held in Cebu City. The distances: 750-meter swim (at the CSCC pool), 20K bike towards the SRP, and a 5K roundabout to Fuente Osmeña. I registered yesterday. Only 500 slots are available and I suggest you enlist today at www.cornerstone8080events.com.

TDC. Last Friday was an ideal day for car racing. Typhoon Ruby had not arrived and the skies the whole day were overcast. By 7 a.m., the Cebu I.T. Park revved with excitement as over two dozen vintage sports cars sat on display. One by one, driver and machine were called onstage as Chris Tio announced, “10, 9, 8…” From Lahug to Ayala Heights to Balamban and down south to Moalboal, these multicolored cars toured the island. They stopped for lunch at McDonald’s. They overtook slow-moving trucks. They braved rain in the mountains and dust in the inner roads to emerge unscathed upon the finish at Chateau de Busay. They traveled over 340 kms. The original plan was to make pit stops in Dumaguete and Bacolod; a Negros/Cebu sojourn in what was labeled as a “historic rally across the Visayas.” But no thanks to the typhoon, the route was shortened but the race continued. Fittingly on this first event, the Tour de Cebu was held within Cebu. I watched video footages from Charlie, my brother, and it was like watching a scintillating videogame car chase. Only, this was real. His orange ’69 BMW was chasing Red Durano’s lime green Porsche 911 SC. Exhilarating. PACE, the organizers, have reason to smile. Their event was an inaugural success and they can’t wait for Dec. 4, 2015 for the 2nd edition. Until then, plenty will have a year to tinker with their vintage toys. To Jay, Kenneth, Yong, Glenn, Harley and the rest of PACE — you’ve started an event that will turn international and become very big for Cebu tourism in the years to come. Congratulations.

IPTL. I missed going to Manila the other weekend to watch the International Premier Tennis League. Organized by Mahesh Bhupathi, the former top-ranked doubles player, this first of its kind team tennis tournament in Asia has gotten good reviews. Andy Murray flew to Manila. So did Gael Monfils and US Open champ Marin Cilic. The star: Maria Sharapova. To the thousands who watched inside the MOA Arena — including plenty from Cebu: Ernie Delco, our Casino Español group, Dr. Ronnie Medalle, Dr. Rhoel Dejaño — it was a rare chance to see these world-caliber netters up close. After Manila, the players flew to Singapore. Now, they’re in New Delhi, India. Next, they’ll move to the UAE. There are plenty of reasons why this format is excellent. It’s non-traditional. There’s shot clock to force the players to speed up. Doubles is highlighted. The veterans (Sampras, Agassi) are mixed with today’s best (Djokovic, Federer).

Tour de Cebu: marathon for vintage cars

I asked Dr. Peter Mancao: What passion does driving a vintage car bring? “When you drive these cars you are talking of the bare essentials of motoring,” he answered. “There is no power steering, it’s manual transmission, no a/c, the brakes… hmm, they stop but you have to put a little engine brake here and there and the ride is on the stiff side.. you literally feel the road.”

This weekend, Dr. Mancao will join 25 other vintage car enthusiasts, driving from Cebu to Dumaguete to Bacolod and back, joining what is termed as the country’s first-of-its-kind Mille Miglia-inspired touristic rally: the Tour de Cebu.

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Peter explained that this is not all show-and-drive. “The ERUF is building a training center in Mandaue,” he said. Extra funds generated will be donated to the organization. “ERUF is giving us its full support. One ambulance will be with us for the entire event,” he said, adding that the ERUF team will be on full alert during the Cebu leg.

As for his personal reason for joining, “I’ve crossed out running a marathon in my bucket list. This ranks next to it,” said Cebu’s top heart surgeon, who’ll be motoring his red 1970 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet (convertible). “Everything is stock in the car (not modified),” he added, “and I would be very happy if we can just finish the race!”

I, too, had first-hand experience last week. My brother Charlie, a car enthusiast just like my dad Bunny, lent me his toy for the night. I drove it home. A tear of sweat trickled down my face. The reason: his 1969 BMW 2002 had no aircon, no power steering, one window couldn’t be opened and I had to press hard the brake. Maneuvering and parking required all of my muscular strength. This screaming loud orange BMW (with the occasional fireworks-like blast) will be driven by Charlie as he joins PACE this Friday.

Another participant is Chris Aldeguer. “I have always been a car fanatic since I was 18,” he said. “Which is why being part of this is exciting for me personally.”

Chris explains that this event is rare because it will bring many historical cars in one setting and, he said, “We will get to do what these cars were designed to do in the first place: Be Driven.”

Iconic cars are often displayed in public during a car show. “This time, these will be driven and driven long. Therefore, the limits will be tested for both cars and drivers,” said Chris, a top triathlete whose physical and mental prowess will be tested as he drives the fully-open ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder.

“Any car enthusiast would appreciate the design and engineering of these vintage cars. It will be more exciting for the enthusiast to see them running for 1,000 kms. across the Visayas,” said Chris. “I hope it will be exciting for the 42 towns and the 12 cities that we will be passing through. It works both ways. Historical cars in a rally will be witnessed by the locals and, at the same time, we will be witnessing these beautiful places.”

Prior to the Friday start, the organizers (PACE) have invited two of the country’s foremost automobile enthusiasts to give a lecture on “the wonders of owning, collecting, restoring as well as racing of vintage cars.”

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Andy Sta. Maria and Gonzalo “Nene” Syquia, the founders of the Manila Sports Car Club, will be here to give a talk entitled, “What is the Meaning of Vintage?” It’s by-invitation only on Thursday at The Henry Hotel, and will be followed by the official race briefing.

Now, the question: Where can we see these cars, all 26 of them, prior to the call, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” The flag-off is at 7 a.m. this Friday at the Cebu I.T. Park. The cars are expected to depart at 8:30. “What’s good is that you can go near the cars to have photos taken and you can talk to the drivers,” said Chris. The finish: it’s on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Northwing of SM City Cebu.